January 13, 2022
The Honourable John Haggie
Minister of Health
133 Airport Blvd.
P. O. Box 2222
Gander, NL A1V 1T5
Dear Minister Haggie:
The Canadian Cancer Survivor Network is concerned that the ongoing pandemic, especially Omicron, is causing yet another round of cancellations and postponements of cancer care. We therefore call on the government of Newfoundland and Labrador to ensure that all cancer surgeries and treatments as well as curative procedures for cancer be prioritized whether they are considered elective or not.
The disheartening results of CCSN’s three Leger surveys conducted during the first three waves of COVID-19 have shown that the impact of COVID-19 on Canadian cancer patients has been severe and has led to a second public health crisis.
For example, over four in 10 patients, seven in 10 caregivers, and nearly six in 10 waiting to find out whether they have cancer or not had appointments cancelled or rescheduled during the pandemic. Three in ten caregivers, seven per cent of patients, and 18 per cent of those awaiting a diagnosis have had a surgery or other procedure cancelled. Of those who have had procedures cancelled, more than one in four patients, nearly one in three caregivers, and more than one in two of those waiting for a diagnosis were still waiting for their procedure to be rescheduled. On average, patients waited 55 days until they had a new date for their procedure, while caregivers waited an average of 36 days.
But cancer can’t wait! It cannot be postponed or cancelled! The pandemic cannot continue to delay diagnostic testing, treatments, and care that will help save cancer patients’ lives. As COVID-19 continues, so too must cancer care.
The Canadian Cancer Survivor Network calls on the government of Newfoundland and Labrador not to wait until the pandemic is declared over to invest in strengthening cancer care.
Cancer can’t wait for those who are unsure of a cancer diagnosis and for those whose cancer may have progressed to a later stage during the pandemic. Policy makers and hospital administrators across Canada must help to avoid what may already be an unavoidable increase in the number of deaths from cancer.
President and CEO
CC: David Brazil, Health Critic, DavidBrazil@gov.nl.ca
Paul Dinn, Health Critic, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Honourable Andrew Furey, Premier, email@example.com
Janice Fitzgerald, Chief Public Health Officer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Response from Minister Haggie
March 16, 2022
Dear Ms. Manthorne:
I am responding to your email of October 18, 2021, as well as your email of January 13, 2022, on behalf of the Canadian Cancer Survivor Network. In your emails, you expressed your significant concern with the impact the COVID–19 pandemic has had on cancer treatment and screenings across Atlantic Canada. My apology for a delayed response.
In your October email, you requested a meeting to present the Leger survey results, a survey conducted by the Canadian Cancer Survivor Network. Officials from the Regional Services Division of the Department of Health and Community Services would be interested in attending a virtual presentation regarding the results of this survey. In order to schedule a presentation, please contact Annette Bridgeman, Director of Regional Services at AnnetteBridgeman@gov.nl.ca.
As you can appreciate, navigating through the COVID–19 pandemic has certainly been challenging, as we had to balance the need for appropriate access to healthcare while at the same time keeping our communities and healthcare facilities safe. Throughout the pandemic, emergency surgeries, cancer treatments and other emergency services went ahead as per normal, however there was a minor setback in these procedures due to the cyberattack in the fall, which affected all healthcare services across the province. Services have now been restored and the backlog in services continues to be addressed. Regional health authorities across the province continue to work very hard, and I am confident that all services will return to pre–pandemic levels in the very near future.
I would like to thank you for reaching out with your concerns, as well as, for your continued advocacy for appropriate access to cancer care services for those affected by cancer.
JOHN HAGGIE, MD, FRCS
MHA – Gander
cc: Annette Bridgeman, Director, Regional Services